Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Bizarre History of "O Canada"

"O Canada" has a long and bizarre history. The song didn't become our national anthem until 1980, but it was written a hundred years earlier: the music was composed by an American Civil War veteran from Montreal with the awesome name of Calixa Lavallée. He didn't write the tune to be Canada's national anthem, he wrote it to be Quebec's. "O Canada" was composed in honour of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day: an ancient religious celebration that would eventually become Quebec's national holiday, deeply associated with the separatist movement.

We explore that strange story in the very first episode of the new web series I'm hosting: Canadiana. It takes us all the way from Montreal to Quebec City to Ottawa, from 1968 to 1646 to 1980, from Pierre Trudeau to the first French settlers to the FLQ. We visit riots, referendums and hockey arenas — all on the trail of the bizarre tale behind our national anthem

You can watch that first episode below. And it's just the beginning. In the months to come, Canadiana will be exploring many more extraordinary stories from the history of our country, including murders, massacres, rebellions, love triangles, secret laboratories, and more. You can watch a teaser for the series here.

To keep up-to-date with our hunt for the most incredible stories in Canadian history, you can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe on YouTube, or even support us on Patreon.

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